Published October 12, 2016
What do the Dalai Lama, Quentin Tarantino, Ben Stiller, Viggo Mortensen and Tom Cruise have in common?
They all own a watch assembled by Gilbert O. Guðjónsson.
Master-Watchmaker Gilbert O. Guðjónsson might assemble watches for the smallest watch manufacturer in the world (It’s hard to verify). He assembles watches in a small shop on Reykjavík’s busy main street, Laugavegur, the legendary nightlife and tourism street in Reykjavík’s 101 district.
The company is J&S Watch Company Reykjavík. It was started by his son, Sigurður Gilbertsson, who works as the technical director, Júlíus Heiðarsson who works as director of development and Grímkell Sigurþórsson who works as the head of design and the marketing director.
Gilbert is the Master-Watchmaker at J&S Watch Company Reykjavík and he tells us the story of how a little watch shop in Reykjavík caught the attention of celebrities around the world:
My son owns a lot of watches and one day he turned to me as said, ‘Now we are going to make our own watches. I’m not going to wear these watches anymore.’ My son and Júlíus, he’s part of our company and he’s a watch collector and pilot, they decided together to make watches. I asked them ‘How are we going to do this?’ and they replied, ‘We’ll show you.’ That was 10 years ago.
We design all parts for our watches. So if there is a mistake, it’s ours and it would be costly, so we try not to make mistakes. We make the parts with nine companies located in Germany and in Switzerland and then we hand assemble all the watches here. We’ve been making watches for 10 years. Today we are up to 4000 watches in 10 years. Probably 350 to 400 watches a year. They all have a sapphire crystal on both sides, so you can see inside the watch. Everything is made with surgical stainless steel. It’s called ‘316 L no nickel.’ All the straps are hand made. All movements are high quality Swiss mechanical movements. The starting size is 38 millimetres. The biggest one is 44 millimetres. We have lots of different dials.
We contacted companies abroad, searching for companies that were to our standard. We wanted everything to be to the highest standard. We only use the best things around. We decided to make the first watch, the prototype, and only made 100 pieces. Then it was time for the next watch and we were like, ‘What are we going to call this?’ Well, that was easy. We would call it 101. It was watch number 101 and it was also the district in Reykjavík where we are located.
We got attention right away. We were on local news on a Monday. The first 100 watches we made sold in less than five months. Then we released the 101 model and the first famous people showed up in the store: Quentin Tarantino and Eli Roth. I asked Tarantino if he minded that we advertised he was getting our watch and he said, ‘No, go ahead.’ That helped a lot. Now you can see all the famous people on the wall.
Tom Cruise was filming a movie in Akureyri and the production company True North had a special watch made for him for his fiftieth birthday. He wanted to meet me, but didn’t have time to meet. He did, however, send me a handwritten thank you note. Even my idol Ian Anderson, from Jethro Tull, is wearing one of my watches, but I think the admiration has turned around now. I think I’m his idol. His son came to Iceland and gave me one of Ian Anderson’s flute. Nice things happen when you do good things.
Our business plan is simple: We are going to take it easy. We go slowly into everything we do. We are in no hurry. We have plenty of time.